Vatican Statement on Pope's Meeting with Tony Blair

Solution to Iraqi Crisis Must «Spare the World New Divisions»

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 23, 2003 ( Here is Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls’ statement, following the audience John Paul granted on Saturday to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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This morning, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2003, the Holy Father received in private audience H.E. Mr. Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Britain. In the course of the cordial conversation, which lasted a half hour, there was talk of the complex international juncture, with particular reference to the Middle East. The Holy Father hoped that, in the solution of the grave situation in Iraq, every effort will be made to spare the world new divisions.

Subsequently, the Holy Father received Mr. Blair’s family.

The Prime Minister of Great Britain also met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state, who received him together with H.E. Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for relations with states.

In this morning’s talks in the Vatican the need was emphasized that all interested parties in the noted Iraqi crisis might collaborate with the United Nations and know how to make use of the resources offered by international law, to avert the tragedy of a war that from different sides is still believed to be avoidable. Special consideration was given to the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people, already harshly tried by long years of embargo.

In the course of the meetings, there was also an exchange of opinions on the future Constitutional Treaty of Europe. On the part of the Holy See, the hope was expressed for explicit recognition of the Churches and communities of believers as well as for a commitment of the European Union to maintain a structured dialogue with them.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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